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Home Blog Everything You Need to Know about Hair Toners & How to Use Them

Everything You Need to Know about Hair Toners & How to Use Them


What exactly is a hair toner? 

A hair toner is any product which changes the reflect, or tone of your client's hair.

Typically a hair toner works to take away garish yellow or brassy orange and helps you achieve a more cool looking blonde look.

Why does hair need toning anyway?

All blonde hair, especially hair that has been lightened to blonde from a darker level, contains shades of yellow, orange and even red pigment in it.

These shades are known as the secondary pigments in the hair.

You will always see them as you start to lift the hair and make it lighter. 

Yellow hair - Before Toning

This client's hair has been bleached. But there is still plenty of yellow left

Hair by Ashley Betancourt

As you can see, even if you have done an excellent job bleaching, it is likely that there will be more yellow in it than your client would want.

That is where toning comes in.

The toner acts to neutralize the secondary pigment in the hair and produce a more attractive end color result.

Good quality toners also help to replenish nutrients lost during the bleaching process and help you achieve shinier, healthier looking hair.

Isn't bleaching the hair enough?

You definitely need to bleach first if the hair is not at level 9 or 10.

That is a necessity. But it won't be enough. See the picture above.

Toners help you get rid of unwanted warmth and achieve very precise ash blonde, cold ash blonde, silver grey, platinum blonde or even violet blonde or grey blonde.

These ending color results are impossible to achieve even if you have bleached well. 

What are the different types of toner that I can use?

There are a large variety of toners on the market. 

So many that it can at times seem very, very confusing.

Very importantly, you need to distinguish between 2 fundamental groups of products:

Oxidative toners on the one hand.

And purple based shampoos and masks on the other.

Oxidative toners

Oxidative toners are toners which you use in combination with developers. 

These will give you a more long lasting transformation, and should be your go-to toners for most situations. 

They can be either with ammonia and without ammonia.

They can also be in cream or liquid form.

We will go through these different types in this blog.

Purple based shampoos and masks.

Purple based treatment products, shampoos and masks are a great way of maintaining the hair after oxidative toning.

But they don't penetrate the hair cuticle.

So they cannot do the job of lifting hair. Or re-coloring them from the inside.

As such, they are not real toners.

What are the advantages of an ammonia-based toner?

In general, ammonia-based toners are stronger and will give more lift.

Ammonia-free toners do open up the cuticle, but they typically have less lift.

Think of ammonia-free toners more as blonde-refreshing toners, or as gloss-toners.

They do neutralize brassy and give color. And they also make the hair shinier.

And they typically last less long.

What are the advantages of a liquid toner versus a cream toner?

Both have advantages and disadvantages. It really is up to the stylist to decide which type he or she is most comfortable with.

Cream based toners are great for really saturating the hair and will give excellent full-on blonde transformation from roots to tips.

Liquid toners, on the other hand, allow you to apply on the hair very quickly and easily, as you can apply using the applicator bottle.

This speed can be a real asset when you are working with long hair. 

Liquid toners typically contain less lift or no lift. As such, they are often used when the stylist does not want to lift the dark parts. 

Can you show me some examples of cream-based toners?

Cream based toners, as we saw, are used for full-on blonde transformation.

They are very useful when you need to lighten the hair even after bleaching. And also when you are doing full-head blonding.

3 Ugly Duckling cream toners are given below.

Note that these are just some of the choices available to you.

Ugly Duckling has a very wide range of toners: silver grey, purple grey, extra cold blue based blonde are just some of these.

If you are into very precise unique blonde results, please refer to our products page.

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V.

This purple based permanent toner with a "boost" - in other words, it will lift up the hair by approximately one level.

We suggest you use this toner if there is still a lot of yellow in the hair which needs kicking out.

And also if you are trying to get a pearl-grey blonde result.

This is one of the strongest and most fact acting toners on the market.

So be sure to watch carefully and rinse as soon as you get the required result.

Intense Pearl Blonde Toner

No-Lift Pearl Blonde 10V

This is a highly pigmented pearl blonde toner. It will not lift as much as the previous toner, but it will pigment more.

Use this toner for cold pearl-grey blonde results when your hair has been well land consistently lightened to a pale yellow level 9.

You will get stunning pearl blonde results with this toner.

Also very fast acting. Rinse as soon as you get the right color result for you!

Pearl Blonde 10V

Extra Light Cold Blonde 10.2

This is another purple based toner.

Extra Light Cold Blonde produces clear white platinum blonde results.

10.2 is a real color, rather than just a toner.

As such, it needs to be left on for the full 30 minutes in order to get rich, 3D results.


Can you show me some examples of liquid-based toners?

Liquid toners tend to be non-lifting. They are useful for quick gloss toning, blonde-refreshing of highlights.

They should also be your go-to toning choice when you want to tone without lifting or touching a dark base or lowlights.

And they allow you to work fast. 

Ugly Duckling's liquid toners are called Blondify. They are ammonia-free.

Because they are liquid toners, you can mix them in an applicator bottle and pour them straight on to the hair.

The exact colors are given below. Use the Natural Violet Blonde when your hair is yellow.

Use the Natural Ash Blonde when your hair is yellow-orange, or very very brassy.

Natural Violet Blonde 010V

Natural Violet Blonde

Natural Ash Blonde 010A

Natural Ash Blonde 010A

Can you show me an example of Toning Shampoos and Masks? 

Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo and Mask is are purple toning hair care and treatment products.

These products are best used after your real toning is done, or as a maintenance product to keep blonde hair white.

Ugly Duckling's Brilliant Blonde Purple Mask

Purple Mask

Can you show me some actual color results I can achieve after using toners?

See pictures below for some of these results. 

Intense Pearl Blonde 100V

Hair by Elona Taki

intense pearl blonde

No-Lift Pearl Blonde 10V

Pearl Blonde 10V

Extra Light Cold Blonde 10.2

Hair by Elona Taki

Extra Light Cold Blonde

Silver Grey

Hair by Elona Taki

pearl blonde 10V

Extra Cold Ash Blonde 10.1b

10.2 Extra Cold Ash Blonde

Very Light Cold Ash Blonde 9.1b

Light Cold Ash Blonde 9.1B

Is a hair toner only for blondes?

Darker hair can also do with toning. But as of now there are not many good toners for dark hair.

So as of now, yes, toning is essentially a blonde thing.

Ugly Duckling is working on fixing that one.

Which toner should I use for my client's hair?

Ugly Duckling has 2 range of cream toners: "Intense" toners and "regular" toners. Both types are cream-based, and they do contain ammonia.

They are excellent at achieving really significant blonde transformation & they are known as some of the fastest acting toners in the market.

Use the intense toners if your client's hair still has a lot of yellow in it and you need to kick this yellow out.

Use the regular toners if your client's hair has been well pre-lightened and is already at level 9/10 and there is minimal yellow left.

In addition, Ugly Duckling has a range of liquid toners: Blondify.

These are great for blonde refreshing of highlights. And for any toning when you want to leave darker base untouched.

They are non-lifting, and ammonia free.

Use the chart below in order to make toner choice EASIER:

Toner Guide Chart

Please refer to Ugly Duckling's product page for other blonding products if you are looking for precise blonde results other than pearl and silver: blue based ash blonde, purple grey, violent blonde, for example, are some of your other choices.

How do I mix the toners?

For cream based toners, mix your toner with a developer in a 1:2 ratio.

Make the mix in a plastic bowl.

Use 20 Vol developer in most cases.

Use 10 Vol developer only when the hair has already been exceptionally well lightened, or when you are doing is a repeat application on very very white hair.

For liquid toners, mix in your applicator bottle with your developer in a 1:1 ratio.

Use 10 Vol in most cases.

How do I apply the toners?

When using the cream toners, use an applicator brush, segment the hair finely and systematically work your way through the hair.

You can use fingers (wearing gloves) for the second round for extra good product saturation.

Be aware that Ugly Duckling toners are very fast acting. So apply first in the areas which need the most lift, then move on to the other areas.

After 10-15 minutes you should inspect the hair closely and rinse when ready.

When using liquid toners, just use pour from the applicator bottle onto the hair and rub over hair vigorously.

Processing time is 10 minutes. Then rinse.




What should I do after rinsing?

After toning, rinse with any acidic hair product (shampoo, conditioner, mask).

These are the best because they help close the hair cuticle.

All Ugly Duckling hair care and treatment products are acidic.

You can also use a purple shampoo and mask.

These help in case you still have any traces of yellow left in the hair.

However, please do not use if you have obtained the perfect color with precise colors and toners like silver grey, 10.2/10V, blue based blonde etc.

You will end up altering the color result.

How often should I use a hair toner? How long does a hair toner last?

Ugly Duckling cream toners should last very well and most probably your client won't need a refresh until it is time for her roots to be redone.

But liquid toners (like Ugly Duckling's Blondify) will typically need a refresh in four to five weeks.

How do I maintain the hair after toning?

Again, advise your client to use acidic hair care products where possible.

Also, advise them to use Brilliant Blonde Purple Shampoo & Mask once a week or so to keep yellow away until her next salon visit.

And also to use Brilliant Blondexx Shampoo & Mask to keep the blonde hair strong and free of breakage.

About the author

Sally has been a hair colorist and trainer for many years in both the US & Europe. She currently does hair color training for Ugly Duckling. She also helps develop new & awesome products for the brand.

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